Rogues, clowns, politicians, and statespersons

Melvyn Magree

Whether in government, business, unions, or any other human activity, we can find people who are rogues, clowns, politicians, or statespersons.  And sometimes a person can be any of these at various times.

Rogues are those who are only for themselves.  They may merely be selfish or they may work to destroy others.  Clowns are those who have no connection to reality.  Politicians are those who try to work with others to accomplish something they can’t do by themselves.  Statespersons are those who have a vision for the common good and succeed in implementing some portion of that vision.

Richard Nixon was an example of someone who was all of the above as candidate and President.  He was a rogue in his first campaign for the Senate when he misrepresented Helen Gahagan Douglas as a Communist.  He was a rogue when he authorized the Watergate break-in.  He was a clown when he said “I am not a crook.”  He was a politician in that he did work on legislation that was supported by many in both parties, for example Marshall Plan funding.  He was a statesman when he looked beyond his anti-Communism to visit and recognize China.

The genial Ronald Reagan was certainly not a rogue.  He was a clown in that he thought the Laffer Curve showed that decreasing taxes would increase prosperity.  He was a politician in that he did get legislation passed that had significant bi-partisan support.  He was a statesman in that he worked with Mikhael Gorbachev on a nuclear arms treaty.

A good portion of the current Republican candidates are clowns and at least one is a rogue.  They are clowns in their continued attacks on President Obama, including continuing to label him as a Muslim.  They are clowns in their continued belief that giving more money to the rich will make the general public richer.  Their schemes will make the whole country poorer with an even more rapidly deteriorating infrastructure and more rapidly warming climate.  And they don’t seem likely to be good politicians because they seem incapable of compromise to get something done.  As I looked at a picture of them in the Star Tribune of 2016-01-17, I thought that the only gray matter was their gray uniforms, I mean gray suits (“Give candidates a little time to think and a little time to speak – you know, kind of like presidents have.”, Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg).

As for the current Democratic candidates, they may be politicians working with others, but I don’t see them as statespersons.

Rogues in business include those who ran Enron (into the ground) and those who gave misleading information to get people to sign mortgages they couldn’t afford.  The Koch brothers are certainly rogues in that they buy a lot of legislation at the state and local levels that is advantageous to them and detrimental to the people.

The rogues in Oregon do not represent the people.  Those “patriots” occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are only after some Ayn Rand “freedom” to do what they please rather than the freedom to govern ourselves.  The Tea Party types seem to completely ignore the General Welfare clause of the Constitution and the establishment of a Congress to provide laws.  If law enforcement doesn’t bring these rogues to justice, it will be our misfortune (malheur in French).

The magical thinking of the anarchists in Oregon is of the same ilk as another set of rogue anarchists: the so-called Islamic Jihadists of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram.  These “Islamic” rogues no more represent Islam than the Bundy anarchists represent the American people.  Consider that there are only about 100,000 “Jihadists” but 1.6 billion Muslims

As a measure of how non-Islamic these rogues are, consider that they may not even have copies of the Qu’ran. “Because it has nothing to do with the Quran. They didn’t even have the Quran; they didn’t want even to give us a Quran.” - Al Arabiya News, 2015-02-04, reporting on Didier François’ interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

If you want a better sense of Islam, see

But “Islamic” rogues are not the only misusers of “religion”.  If we are a Christian nation, why do some “Christians” call for the expulsion of Muslims?  Why do some “Christians” call for bombing women and children because there are “Islamists” in an certain area.  What kind of Christian nation would have nuclear weapons that would indiscriminately kill thousands of innocent citizens?

On the one hand, we had the rogue Fred Phelps whose Westboro Baptist Church would picket veterans’ funerals as a protest against gays.  I couldn’t confirm this memory but I did find a long list of non-Christian behavior.  On the other hand, we have the Christian statesman, Martin Luther King Jr., who eschewed hate and worked hard to spread Christian love, even against those who would hurt him.

We don’t get to choose many of our rogues, but we can choose many of our politicians and statespeople.  But to do that, we have to show up at each and every election.  If we stay away, we bring on the clowns, and the rogues, too.  Every vote counts and your vote counts only if you cast it.